Dec. 5, 2018 – TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two Chinese citizens who applied for political asylum after landing at Taoyuan International Airport on a flight transfer have now been stuck at the airport for 70 days.
Liberty Times reports that Liu Xinglian (劉興聯) and Yan Kefen (顏克芬) landed in Taiwan on Sep. 27 on a flight transfer from Bangkok to Beijing, after which they made immediate asylum applications. Since the immigration agency is yet to come to a decision on their fate, they have been made to wait in the restricted zone of the airport.
Liu is a founder member and secretary-general of the often-targeted dissident group China Rights Observer, while Yan is a member of the New Citizens’ Movement to hold officials to greater accountability, whose founder Xu Zhiyong served a four-year jail term for his activism.
Official sources indicated that Taiwan’s criteria for political asylum usually approve activists who have made a name for themselves in China’s dissident movement.
Liu said he was secretly arrested and held in solitary confinement and tortured for about nine months by authorities in China, and fears similar treatment if he is forced to return there.
“They played noise at high volume at me every day, to the extent that my aural nerve sustained serious damage,” he told RFA. “They also force-fed me daily with a large amount of unlabeled medication. When I got out they discovered a tumor on my left adrenal gland.”
Liu has also suffered from heart disease, high blood sugar, memory loss, neurasthenia, and high blood pressure since his ordeal, he said.
Liu’s torture claims are consistent with an earlier disappearance while in police custody.
RFA reported in May 2016 that Liu had gone missing from a detention center where he had been held since June 2015 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”
His “disappearance” was discovered on March 11 after two supporters tried to take money to him in the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, only to be told he was no longer there.
Taiwan currently has no specific laws regarding refugees and asylum seekers, which both dissidents said they understand during a recent interview. They also acknowledged that their pre-election arrival came at a sensitive time.
Liu and Yan said a third country has accepted their asylum applications, which are currently going through checks and approvals, although they have mentally prepared for a long wait as it is unknown when the country will issue formal approvals.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) remarked that it is still the responsibility of the airline company to make suitable arrangements for the two dissidents. The National Immigration Agency has offered to provide necessary assistance for daily needs.
With regards to the dissidents’ status in Taiwan, MAC said the government will guarantee their safety for the time being, and thoroughly consider international customs, domestic law, prior cases and human rights protection practices. They added that the dissidents will receive communications about any developments on their case.
Yan and Liu made their application as they transited via Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport on a flight from Thailand to mainland China, a route followed by rights activist and former torture victim Huang Yan, who was granted a temporary stay by Taiwan after being recognized as a genuine refugee by the United Nations.
“It wasn’t easy to get to a place we previously thought was free,” Yan said, adding that the pair had been taken aback by Beijing’s influence with the Thai authorities, who have previously detained and forcibly repatriated even approved U.N. refugees wanted by Beijing.
Chinese activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei fled with their families to Thailand in 2015 and were granted refugee status by the UNHCR office in Bangkok.
But they were handed over to China by the Thai police as they awaited resettlement in the third country, in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N.
Dong and Jiang, a political cartoonist who had lampooned Chinese President Xi Jinping, were jailed for “incitement to subvert state power” and “illegally crossing a national border” by a court in Chongqing after arriving back in China in connection with their peaceful activism.